Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Clergy Day Hospitality
You know you have to do it. You know it's important. You know you'll feel better when it's all over. But, man, it's just hard to get excited about sitting in a room filled with clergy, everyone smiling - some through grit teeth - everyone saying how wonderful everything is - even though you know they may be going through a rough patch in their marriage or family or congregation - but everyone being rigorously and relentlessly hail-fellow-well-met and keep-calm-and-carry-on.
Someone usually picks up a bag of bagels and doughnut holes and a few boxes of coffee that is lukewarm after an hour and stone cold by break time. Lunch is often a couple of foot long subs someone picks up from the deli and a bucket filled with ice and soda can.
You know. 'Cuz it's so healthy.
Today was my second Fall Clergy Day in the Diocese of DE and, when I woke up this morning, I found myself not exactly excited and enthusiastic but unexpectedly and pleasantly happy.
It wasn't just because I had a 15 minute ride to get there as opposed to the 90 minute ride to Wilmington. It was at the parish hall of St. George's Chapel - which is in partnership with All Saint's Church in Rehoboth Beach. My rector is rector of both (very different) congregations - one rural and the other in the midst of a resort area. It's a herculean task which he does with great skill and a spirit of generosity and compassion.
There are some very fine clergy in this diocese. No, really. Beginning with my rector, but certainly not limited to him. It's a small diocese (32 congregations) and, it's not the Northeast Corridor so things tend to move a lot more slowly here - even slower "below the canal" where I am - and, while there are the usual "clunkers" here and there, there seems not to be as many, proportionately, as in other dioceses where I've served.
The agenda was packed, as usual, and there was the expected report from the bishop - newly elected chair of CGP (applause, applause), a "report back" (a minor irritation of mine about the redundancy of that term which everybody uses with such frequency that everyone thinks is correct form) from the General Convention Deputation and a nifty little exercise that got us talking with each other in small groups and served to help the planning committee do some programmatic planning for the year.
Here's what made the difference: Hospitality.
When we arrived, there was not only fresh, hot GOOD coffee awaiting us but also homemade (not from a box) fresh, hot out of the oven banana, apple, and peach pastries AND some fresh, hot, homemade (not from a box) muffins. Really.
My rector had assembled a cooking crew - including former wardens and a present warden who is a retired Presbyterian minister - who arrived at the Parish Hall at 8 AM, rolled up their sleeves, and were in the kitchen, slicing and dicing to a faretheewell.
They do this sort of thing all the time. Really. We joke that the "unofficial mission statement" at both churches is, "Hey, ya gotta eat."
After we broke for noonday prayer in the Chapel, lunch was a whole, 12 pound salmon on the grille as well as a cheese, veggie philo delicacy for the vegetarians in the crowd. There were assorted grilled veggies and, I hear, an amazing dessert. All made in the parish kitchen.
I couldn't stay for lunch - had a one o'clock that had been on my calendar long before the schedule for Clergy Day came out - but I saw the salmon grilling and I've already heard about it from some colleagues who called to ask why I wasn't at lunch. They simply RAVED about the food.
That's been my experience of clergy here. They mostly genuinely like each other and, even when they don't, the hospitality is gracious and genuine and always errs on the side of generosity.
You know, I think that is not only a model of servant leadership, I think that sets the tone for the rest of the diocese. It makes a difference. A huge difference, in my experience.
Are there problems? Absolutely. Are there difficulties? No doubt. Is it perfect? No way. Does it guarantee anything? Nope.
Here's the thing: With all the incivility and rudeness in the world, there's something wonderful about finding a haven where manners matter and hospitality counts and generosity is both the norm and is appreciated.
Is that going to save the world? Probably not. But, I think, when servant leaders are servant leaders to other servant leaders, it creates a culture and an environment that just might help to change it a bit.
Let's call it a theory of "trickle down hospitality". It doesn't work with economics - as the last 40 years have shown - but I suspect it makes all the difference in the church.
I recommend it highly.